MMIA, Ikeja

No stopping Nigeria Air project – FG, as FAAN completes AFL maintenance on Lagos airport runway

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Amid a court order stopping further execution of the proposed Nigeria Air, Federal Government has vowed that the proposed national carrier project cannot be halted.

MMIA in Ikaja, Lagos

Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, who stated this, hours after a Federal High Court in Lagos had ordered the Federal Government and its parties to halt the proposed Nigeria Air following its granting of an Order of Interim Injunction sought by a group of domestic airline operators restraining the Federal Ministry of Aviation, including the Minister of Aviation (Hadi Sirika), the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and other defendants from executing the national carrier project.

Sirika speaking at the Protocol Lounge of the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) in Lagos insisted that the Federal Government would not go back on plan to establish the national carrier.

The minister who was at the event for the official opening of the newly-reconstructed Lagos airport Runway 18L, said aviation stakeholders and unions had sufficient time to participate in the process of setting up Nigeria Air rather than engaging in legal suit to stall the project.

Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos has issued an Order of Interim Injunction restraining the Federal Ministry of Aviation, including the Minister of Aviation (Hadi Sirika), the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and other defendants from executing the proposed National Carrier, Nigeria Air project.

It would be recalled hat on Tuesday, the Presiding judge, Hon Justice A. Lewis-Allagoa after hearing the submission of Nureni Jimoh SAN with Abubakar Nuhu Ahmad Esq. counsel for the Plaintiff/Applicant move in terms of the Motion paper granted the injunction.

“The Court after careful consideration of the application and submission of counsel, it is hereby ordered as follows:

1.That an Order of Interim Injunction is granted restraining the Defendants either by themselves, agents, privies, Principals or any other persons whosoever from draft the proposed executing “NATIONAL CARRIER ESTABLISHMENT AND AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF NIGERIA (represented by the 3rd and 4th Defendants) and the strategic equity partner (the 2nd Defendant) or giving effect to and or suspending the sale and transfer of the shares & operations of the 1st Defendant by the 2nd Defendant pending the determination of the Motion on Notice.

“2: That an Order of Maintenance of Status Quo by all parties in this suit from taking any further step(s) in relation to the subject matter of this suit pending the determination of the Motion on Notice is granted.

“3. That an Order of Accelerated Hearing of this suit is granted,” the Court injunction read.

The court decision follows barely two months after Ethiopian Airlines had emerged the preferred bidder and core investor of the lingering project, and four months after the Federal Government had acquired three aircraft from the airliner as part of take-off preparations.

Sirika had dismissed decision by eight local airlines in the country to head to court to challenge the legitimacy of the Nigeria Air project, saying ‘ no rational court can stop the airline as it is a Limited Liability Company.’

The indigenous airlines had approached the court praying it to order the withdrawal of the Air Transport Licence already issued to Nigeria Air by the Federal Government/Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) claiming that the firm which served as Transaction Adviser for the transaction, was incorporated in March last year and alleged that the company was linked to the aviation minister.

The local airlines also alleged that ATL issued to Nigeria Air did not pass through the normal security clearance.

Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika

However, Sirika who reacted not knowing of the injunction said he has not been served and so he can talk about it stressing, ”I have not seen any rational court that would say I am stopping somebody from establishing a company because Nigeria Air is a Limited Liability company in the Corporate Affairs Commission( CAC).

”If anyone wants to invest in that company, there is no law in Nigeria stopping them from doing so. You can own a hundred per cent.

“This is what we want, we want FDI. So it is US350bn for the airline and somebody brings USD 200 million dollars into Nigeria, why not?,” the minister said.

In July, this year, Federal Government approved the lease of three aircraft for initial take-off of the proposed national carrier, Nigeria Air.

Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, made the disclosure while briefing journalists after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

According to Sirika, the approval by the Federal Government will see the three aircraft procured from Airbus and Boeing and would begin operation with domestic routes.

“The airline will begin with domestic routes, then expand to regional and intercontinental routes.”

On the likely date for the commencement of operations, Sirika said “We will announce commencement soon. There is no specific date for the take-off of the airline operations.”

The Nigerian Air is expected to restore the glory of Nigeria’s aviation sector, boost the country’s economy, attract investors and create job opportunities.

It would also be recalled that in June, this year, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) presented the Air Transport License (ATL), to the interim management of Nigeria Air Limited in Abuja.

NCAA’s Director General, Captain Musa Nuhu, while presenting the ATL to Nigeria Air management, said it was very important to have a strong airline in the country in view of the single Africa Air Transportation Market and the African Continental Free Trade Zone.

“We are ready to work with the Nigeria Air Limited to strengthen the economy to attract foreign investors for the benefit of the Nigerian Economy.

“I want to assure Nigerians that the process has begun with the issuing of the Air Transport License ATL and very soon the other document will follow to fast track the process before the flight schedule commences.

“With this new agreement now the pride of Nigerian Airline will be restored and Nigerians will benefit the importance of its airlines.”

Speaking after receiving the ATL, the Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria Air Limited, Capt Dapo Olumide said the national airline was one aspect of the entire roadmap project which includes an MRO which is the maintenance facility, aircraft leasing, and university specifically geared towards educating people in the aviation sector.

“This is the whole aspect of the road map and Nigerian air is one of the critical arms of the roadmap which is significant and the objective of the national airline, The President of Nigeria insisted on having a national carrier because we need to restore the pride of Nigeria aviation in Nigeria and outside the country.

“We need to reinstill in the mind of Nigerians with its population in excess of 200 million that it has the capacity and most people around the world say that Nigerians are the most travelled of any nationality and therefore it is important to us provide infrastructure for people to have access to other parts of the world,” the Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria Air Limited, Capt Dapo Olumide stated.

In September, this year, the Ethiopian Airlines emerged core investor in Nigeria Air with 49 per cent shareholding, with the Federal Government controlling five per cent equity while a consortium of MRS, SAHCO and will have 46 per cent.

Nigeria Air is the nation’s proposed national carrier which was unveiled at the Farnborough Air Show in England on July 18, 2018.

Meanwhile, in a related development, five months after the partial closure of one of the runways of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Ikeja in Lagos, work has now been completed as the airport has since Monday, commenced operation.

It would be recalled that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) had notified airport users of a planned rehabilitation of Runways 18R/36L of the MMIA from June 4-5 between 6am till 1pm daily.

FAAN which had informed the general public through a notice to that effect signed by the General Manager, Corporate Affairs of the Agency, Mrs Faithful Hope- Ivbaze, however, added that both scheduled inbound and outbound flights will operate ‘while maintenance will be ongoing.’

“During this period, Runway 18L/36R will be in use for all inbound and outbound flights operations as scheduled while maintenance will be ongoing on Runway 18R/36L.

“Management also wishes to reiterate to our esteemed travelling passengers and the general public that inbound and outbound flights at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport will be operating unhindered,” the statement read.

Speaking during at the Protocol Lounge of the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) in Lagos while appreciating stakeholders for their patience and the professional team of the FAAN and the contractors for delivering the runway, the minister said that the completion of Airfield Lighting (AFL) on Runway 18L/36R of the Lagos airport has ended three fundamental issues of safety, airport efficiency and efficiency of airlines in cost saving, operation and comfort.

Sirika who said he landed on Runway 18L/36R at about 10pm on Monday, November 14, 2022 assured that the runway lighting and other safety components were working perfectly.

According to him, the 2.7 kilometre (2,700m) long runway 18L/36R‘s approach lights, Runway Lights (Threshold and Centre, edge light and others were working perfectly and would bring about succour to airline operators in terms of cost saving and comfort to passengers because of its time saving benefit.

Sirika said the runway repair project has caused untold hardship in the sector for 14 years and subsequent governments have overlooked this critical infrastructure even to the level that airlines started seeing the abnormal as a norm.

He however said the administration has done the needful regarding this particular procurement,” All that has to be said has been said regarding this particular procurement.

“It was something that was abandoned some 14 years ago. There were challenges, we had to get the contractor, but we delivered.

“We are focused on safety critical items, security items that passengers don’t see. Nothing concerns the passengers about Very High Omni directional Radio (VOR), Instrument Landing System (ILS) and other safety critical infrastructure but those are the particulates for safe air travel.

”The fundamental issues the runway lighting would solve is air safety, efficiency of the airport and efficiency of the airlines in cost saving, operations and comfort, I am very glad we achieved this,” Sirika said.

Speaking earlier, Managing director of FAAN, Captain Rabiu Yadudu recognised the professional job done by the team of FAAN engineers and the contractors stressing that the task was not easy at all.

”It was a very difficult task but we delivered a very critical milestone, achievements come and go buy none comes bigger and better than the lighting of the MMA Runway 18L/36R.

“Over the 14 years minimum the lack of AFL compromised security, efficiency and affected 24/7 operations. As a pilot, I have never landed on Runway 18L/36R after sunset and I have been a pilot for over two decades,” he said.

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